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Don's 2003 Race Report Card
Don's 2003 Report Card

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Posted Monday, 1 December, 2003

Another year gone by, another year older. Sometimes age is a runner’s ally, as when a young runner gains experience, but eventually, inevitably, it becomes a runner’s most difficult opponent. Having run competitively for more than 27 years now, it is no mystery as to which side of the ledger I am on. I ran fewer competitive events in 2003 than in any of the previous 25 years, primarily due to injuries and lack of fitness. Those factors also resulted in redirecting my competitive energy towards the triathlon during the second half of the year. In any event, here is my annual report card of races, along with a few other notable events.

1/1, Salisbury 10 Km, Salisbury, MA: 40:46, 62nd/376. This was my sixth straight year running this race. Although a sub 40-minute finish was once routine, this year’s result was cause for celebration. With little speed training, I was surprised to average close to 6:30 pace. It would turn out to be my fastest run of the year, all 365 days included! Grade: B+

3/15: Crown King 50 Mile, Phoenix, Arizona: 10:49:12, 26th/52. This was a race I had looked at for a few years and decided to go for in 2003. I also got a chance to visit my brother, who lives in Tucson. With a net uphill elevation gain of more than 5,000 feet, along with tough, rocky trails over the final 15 miles, this race was a real bear. We picked up 2,000 feet of elevation in the final 10 miles. In addition, there was the 3:00 a.m. starting time. I was hoping for a finish in 10 hours or less, but that was out the window by halfway. I went off course for 20 minutes about three hours in, which did not help. Despite the high altitude (7,000 feet at the finish—high for me at least) my energy as good and I held my own in the field throughout the race. My final time of 10:49 was o.k. when all was said and done. The weather was ideal, although the dilapidated mining town of Crown King, where we finished, was buried by a huge snowstorm the day after the race. On the long, winding, seemingly endless drive back to civilization, we visited the Bumblebee Trading Post, a can’t miss tourist spot! Grade: B

3/18: Grand Canyon Trek. This was not a race, but worth mentioning nonetheless. Three days after the 50-mile, I hiked and ran five miles down and five back up the Bright Angel Trail in three hours in my first ever visit to this magnificent natural landmark. I vow to go back someday for a rim to rim trek. The views are incredible.

4/21: Boston Marathon: 4854th/17548. This was to be my 50th lifetime marathon—as long as I could get through it. It also marked my 12th Boston and first since the 100th anniversary race in 1996. The weather turned up the warmest since then, of course, around 70 degrees at the start. A knee injury I incurred in the aftermath of the previous month’s 50-mile added to the degree of difficulty. All in all I had a pretty good race, hanging close to eight-minute pace after 20 miles. I need exactly a sub-eight in the final mile to make my age-group qualifying time, and ran a 7:58! Final time: 3:30:58. My slowest Boston of the 12, but far from my worst. Grade: B

7/15: Old Colony Triathlon, Middleboro, MA; 1 mile swim, 25 mile bike, 6 mile run: 2:30:51, 122nd/243. This was my first triathlon in two years–on a very hot day, in the 80s. I turned in a pretty good effort, passing many people on the run, but I had forgotten how intense the effort can be in these multi-sport races, especially the bike. Even at close to max output on the bike I was barley holding my place in the field. Grade: B

8/17: Timberman Half Ironman Triathlon, Guilford, NH; 1.2 mile swim, 56-mile bike, 13.1-mile run. 5:47:38, 397th/786. Another very tough race on a hot day. The swim was rough and tumble, with close to 1,000 participants fighting choppy waves–and each other. The bike was very hilly, and really proved tough on the return leg; I pushed the first half way too hard. By the double out and back run, I was just hanging on; my legs would not turnover, especially on any kind of uphills, of which there were many. Was I ever happy to see the finish line! Grade: C

9/7: New York City Bike Century 100 Mile, New York, New York. Again, not a race per se, but quite a different experience. I took the midnight bus from Boston to New York with bike in tow. After arriving in mid-town Manhattan at 4:30 a.m., I pedaled to the 6:00 start in Central Park. For the next seven hours we cycled up, down, and all around the five boroughs, including crossing the Brooklyn Bridge (fun) and the Throgs Neck Bridge (downright terrifying). Afterward I pedaled back to the bus station and arrived back in Boston at 8:00 p.m.

9/14: Ovarian Cancer 5 Km, Boston, MA. 20:40, 12th/486 (including walkers). I ran this race to honor my late sister. The plan was to jog through the race and then do a long run to prepare for my upcoming Ironman, but my competitive instincts got the better of me and I actually raced the 5-km, pushing hard the last two miles. After the race I cooled down for five minutes, and then ran 21 more miles. Not a recommended way to do a long run! I felt pretty awful the whole way. Grade: C

10/12: Duke Blue Devil Ironman Triathlon, Durham, North Carolina; 2.4-mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2-mile run: 14:25:55, 175th/250. This was my big effort for 2003. The weather was good and I felt o.k. but the pure magnitude of the distance proved to (almost) be my undoing on the run. I never felt I would not finish, but was somewhat disappointed in my slow pace in the marathon. I did reach the finish line however, the most important thing in the end. For a full report on this race, go to: Grade: C+

I also directed the two events I annually do, the Eastern States 20 Mile from Maine to Massachusetts in March, and the Nifty Fifty Mile, 50 Km, and Marathon in Coventry, Rhode Island in November. Both presented challenges, aside from getting the runners through the race: the Eastern States was run in cold rain and wind, not ideal for anyone, although the wining times were remarkably fast. Emily Levan surprised everyone by running 2:04 to win the women’s race, the second-fastest in race history. She went on to finish among the top 15 women in the Boston Marathon the next month. I suffered a major back injury minutes before the start of the Nifty 50, making for something less than a comfortable day. At least the weather was good! Ben Nephew ran 3:14:00 in the 50-km, the fastest time in North America in 2003 for that distance.

Personally, in November I attended my 30th high school reunion. It was a real trip. None of us are getting (or looking) any younger. As an avid sports fan, I enjoyed the exciting season the Boston Red Sox provided, especially the come from behind wins over the Oakland A’s in the playoffs. But the nadir was reached in the early morning hours of October 17—my birthday—when the season went down the drain in the most painful way imaginable. A high point was seeing my alma mater Villanova University lady wildcats beat Connecticut in the Big East championship game, ending their 70-game winning streak.

Finally, I can’t forget to mention, positively, the support of my s.o. Charlotte throughout the year. Sadly, there was the passing of my dear sister Dayle on April 26, so sadly at the young age of 52. She will be missed. So will friend and fellow triathlete Walter Burgess, who passed away suddenly, at only 40, on November 10. His memory will live on for all of his running friends.



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